No one is immune from developing mental ill-health. It could happen to any one of us at any time. The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2030 depression will overtake heart disease and cancer as the leading global burden of disease. They say mental ill-health is the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age.

Under the Tory Government there have been false economies on mental health.

The Tory led government’s re-organisation of health & social care under the 2012 Health & Social Care Act, has placed competition, fragmentation and privatisation at the heart of our NHS. It also removed the Secretary of State’s duty to provide health services in England ending historic political accountability for the NHS. A direct result of this has been a post code lottery for mental health services, rationing of treatments and a market framework which puts competition before collaboration and profits before patients.

Under the Tory government the mental health budget has fallen for the first time in a decade.  

This means fewer mental health doctors and mental health nurses.

In contrast, in late 2012 Ed Miliband established the Taskforce on Mental Health and set out a roadmap for how society needs to change to prevent mental ill-health, promote good mental health and support fuller integration into the community of people affected by, or recovering from, mental ill-health. Carrying on from this Labour has created a 10 year plan for the NHS, which amongst other things would:

  • Bring forward a bill to parliament to repeal the 2012 Health & Social Care Act.
  • Recruit more staff all paid for by our ‘Time to Care Fund’ raised through a mansion tax, cracking down on tax avoidance and a new levy on tobacco firms.
  • Integrate care from home to hospital. Bring physical, mental and social care together in a single service to treat the whole person.
  • Give patients new rights to access care – a new right to talking therapies just as patients have rights to drugs and medical treatments.
  • A single point of contact for people with complex physical and mental health conditions, with the authority to get things done.
  • A personalised care plan tailored to meet the needs of the individual and their family and not restricted by service boundaries.
  • Right to access peer support with people who are managing the same condition.

Cllr Stephen Morgan, Labour’s candidate for Portsmouth South said:

“I am concerned that mental health is not highlighted enough locally as a priority area. Last year 11 pledges to improve local mental health services were published by Public Health – what progress is being made with these? There is an urgent need to review crisis mental health care in the city, with far too many people having to be dealt with by police when specialist professional support is what’s needed. In Portsmouth the suicide rate is of great concern – above the national average.”

There are some brilliant community services in Portsmouth, but they are constantly struggling for financial support.

In 2013 it was estimated that mental ill-health cost the UK economy £70-100 billion a year. Surely it makes sense to invest in reducing this cost through properly funded mental health services and real parity within the NHS.

Over the past 10 years, under the Tories’ austerity agenda, the number of people diagnosed with mental health issues has rapidly increased. Mounting pressures on daily lives entrenches the mental health crisis even further and the impact this policy is having on the mental health and wellbeing of our society simply cannot be ignored. By tackling social issues such as the housing crisis, low wages, poverty and zero hour contracts Labour will be investing in mentally healthier communities.

Nearly half of all those receiving disability benefits, or the new Personal Independence Payments (PIPs), are diagnosed with mental ill-health. Evidence shows that anxiety and stress caused by the draconian assessment process people have to undergo actually worsens mental health conditions, and doesn’t help people recover.

Rumal Khan, Labour’s candidate for Portsmouth North said:

“In my work in Portsmouth I know that in ethnic minority communities, stigma also prevents many seeking help and support for mental ill-health. I have supported local wellbeing events to try and tackle these issues. As the elected MP for Portsmouth North, challenging the stigma and discrimination around mental health would be a personal priority. We need to have more focus on preventive work with children and young people in schools and in the community, so I would support the expansion of the Future in Mind programme already underway.”

Most people with a mental health condition want to work and yet we know employers are even less likely to employ someone with a mental health condition than someone with a physical disability.

So again, we need to reduce the stigma around mental health, and invest in good quality support to get people back into employment.

We are facing a stark choice in this election. The Tories believe that the most vulnerable in our society should pay off the national debt. Labour believes the super rich and tax avoiding multi-national corporations should be paying their share. We should not be hounding people, literally to death in some cases, who need the support of the welfare system.